by Peter Frankl.

When you’re starting a new law firm from scratch you’ll have to make some hard financial choices. If you have no clients, you can’t have the latest computers, a flashy office and a team of employed lawyers and admin staff at the ready.

If you’re waiting for the phone to ring while all of those expenses are ticking over then you’re asking for financial trouble.

Most startup law firms will not employ staff until there is work for them to do but even without a single client, there are good reasons to acquire technology and office space.

For a new firm that does not yet have a steady stream of work, what should be the priority: technology or office premises? Which of these is it better to have ready before the rush of client work starts?

Let’s consider the arguments in favour of office premises 

Perhaps nothing says more about your firm than your premises and its address. Aren’t people always asking you “where’s your office?” Your address sends a message to potential clients and referrers about who you are, the clients you want and the prices you charge.

Having a workspace that is set up the way you want, adds to your efficiency. You can sit down and start working immediately. Ideally it is a quiet and comfortable space and as soon as you occupy it, your body knows it’s time to work.

A dedicated office space is motivating, sets a professional tone for yourself and builds confidence with clients.

Arguments in favour of technology

The typical scenario for a startup firm is being on your own. You lack clients and you have the time to set up systems. You also have time to experiment with and learn new software. This software will form the basis of your work practices when you do start to get busy.

By the time you hire your first employee, you will already be working efficiently thanks to the technology you have adopted. You will be hiring your first employee, not because you are inefficient and can’t get through the work but predominantly because your client demands are increasing.

Having used the software before your first employee was hired means that you have the systems in place for the second person to be as efficient as possible and then the third person and so on.

Because you learned the software yourself, you can train new staff or at the very least, have a good sense of whether they are using the technology optimally.

I’ve outlined two strong arguments for investing in office space first and investing in technology first. So which is the winning argument?

The winner is …

In my opinion, the winning argument is simply this: As soon as you start to get busy, whether you’re on your own or already with employees, it becomes a lot harder to learn and implement technology and set up new systems.

Contrast this to finding or relocating office premises. While office moves are not fun, they have never been easier to execute. Phone numbers can be diverted, letterhead templates can be updated and the removalists can literally do the heavy lifting.

Furthermore, with good technology, team members can work from anywhere. Mobile technology, virtual office addresses, shared workspaces, have all contributed to making the office space issue far less important for the startup law firm. Start with the investment in technology.

Resources if you are considering starting a new firm in 2018:

Free webinar on 14 December 2017

© 2017 Legal Practice Intelligence